Small charities helped people in need during the pandemic in a way that public services and mutual aid couldn’t, according to a report from Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales.
The Value of Small in a Big Crisis report is based on interviews with charities and the public sector in four areas across England and Wales. The interviews found that smaller charities addressed four main areas of need – access to food, isolation and loneliness, information, and mental health/wellbeing – in ways that were tailored to different groups and communities experiencing complex social issues, such as homelessness or mental ill health, and economic disadvantage.
Small charities “showed up and stuck” around, using their position of trust within communities to support people throughout the crisis when they were needed most. This contrasts with parts of the public sector, which were slower to react early on, says the report, and informal support and mutual aid, which it says dissipated over time.
Despite their own challenges, locally rooted small charities found multiple ways to maintain human contact using the trusted relationships they already had to disseminate help and information. This was particularly critical for disadvantaged neighbourhoods, communities of faith or ethnicity, people experiencing poor mental health and people seeking asylum whose needs were less well served by mainstream provision and to whom official public health messages were struggling to reach.
The research found that the work of smaller charities has created real value for the individuals they helped and for public services, stopping lives from getting worse and preventing more people from contracting the virus, so ultimately reducing demand on the health system at minimal additional cost to the public purse.
And, in the face of a severe recession, by continuing to employ local people, utilising local supply chains, and accessing pots of funding that could not have been brought into local areas by other types of providers, small charities have also added value to local economies.
The report highlights the resilience of many small charities, demonstrating “absorptive capacity” in their response to the unprecedented impact of the crisis on their work, operations and the individuals and communities they support, and then showing tremendous “adaptive capacity” by responding rapidly and flexibly through adjustments and innovations on an ongoing basis
Paul Streets, Chief Executive of Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, said:
“Small charities’ knowledge of local communities is unparalleled, and has allowed them to provide effective services to those who’ve needed them the most during this most challenging of times.”
“If Government really wants to help people through Covid and beyond it should invest more in small frontline charities – who are already on the ground in their communities and achieve fantastic results – and less in big top-down private contracts. We call on Government, councils, and other funders to act on the report’s recommendations to ensure small charities can be there to help the county and communities recover and rebuild.”
Chris Dayson, Principal Research Fellow in the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, which helped to conduct the research, added:
“We’ve always known the value of small charities, but in conducting our research we found that they were truly going above and beyond to help communities adapt and respond to reach people that others can’t and stay engaged where others won’t.”
“As our report shows, small and local charities provide a distinct value to individuals, public services, economies and communities. Decision makers need to recognise this value and support small charities to survive and thrive.”
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